SportsLeader is a virtue-based mentoring and motivation program for coaches. This blog shares stories from coaches all over the country transforming lives. For more information contact Lou Judd - firstname.lastname@example.org
I am actually the husband of Erin ... She has been writing you in regards to our son's team and the inspiration they have brought out of us the last several months. I know she has given them much due respect and admiration. Yet, I feel it is my duty and honor to share a perspective of my own below.
I was brought up to believe and condition in my mind that anyone other than myself was considered competition and that I had to beat/defeat the individual(s) in order for me to succeed and be “good” at whatever I did. No matter who it was, I had to find a way to overcome, defeat, and many times own the competition. This was not only athletically; it was also academically, in friendships and in relationships. Every coach I ever had (yes, everyone) would continually tell me everything I did wrong on a daily basis as their means of inspiration. I could often hear my HS basketball coach tell me that “I couldn’t even guard my own shadow” and that even though I was unstoppable on offense, my defense was horrific. I had a baseball coach in HS also that never once showed me how to hit, field, or even slide for that matter. It was the most non-motivating environment I was ever in. To say the least it was frustrating.
I can remember being fortunate enough to earn a full basketball scholarship to a smaller Division II university in IL. It was something I worked very hard for with thousands of hours of playing probably the best competition in the U.S. (Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Antoine Walker, Donavan Mcnabb, Tom Kleinschmidt, Jerry Gee, Anthony Parker, and etc..) These were not just people I played against; they were people I competed against. Yet, I always had bitterness towards them because they went on and I didn’t. It was a feeling of failure for me in many ways that I ended up as a Division I transfer to a small Division II school. The feelings must have been mutual among all the players on my team as we never had any collaberativeness or “team spirit” in the 4 years I attended this small university. We were all “egos” doing our own thing for ourselves with little concern for anyone. There was an empty space deep inside of me as it almost seemed everything I had worked for was now lost and even forgotten. It was as if there was no reason I went through what I did and felt like it was a wasted effort.
I decided to then walk on in Baseball. The odds were stacked against me as there was no history at this university of anyone playing both sports full time. In addition, this team was nationally ranked each year for the past 15 years, so for a walk on to make it, was extremely challenging. I gave it a go. I would watch the best hitters on our team and notice the little things they did that made a difference. My coach was a former Minor League pitcher and unfortunately did not have the knowledge one needed to really exceed at hitting with technique. So, I took it upon myself to study the best hitters I saw and model their patterns and behaviors. I made the Varsity team as a sophomore and traveled with them during the NCAA playoffs. I went into pinch hit on occasion, but more importantly felt I had succeeded as a walk on while others had laughed from day one. Midway through my Junior year, I earned and won a starting position which I kept throughout my senior year. I led that team in homeruns my senior year with 16. the most I had ever hit before was 2. This all happened with little instruction and meaningful guidance. Somehow, I created my success in spite of many set backs. It felt like an accomplishment.
As most competitive people do, they take this aspect of their life and conditioned thinking with them. As an employee, it seemed when I sold appliances/electronics, mortgages, and other services, I had to be “making money”. I had to beat out others and be ahead of the “competition”. It was often a toss up as to whether it was for the best interest of the people/consumer as opposed to the best interest of my pay check (and supporting my family/bills). I felt like I was in it for developing and helping others grow, yet I think I wanted others to grow so it made me look better and I could grow. I wanted to be on top, and that was my motivation.
I found this also to be a conditioned way of thinking with my relationships. Now, I want to be certain that we understand that I have remained faithful to my wife. Yet, there was always this “flirtatious way” about me that wanted to prove that I could sweet talk and “Be the Man” around other women. It was almost like it was a challenge for them to say how great, cute, and wonderful I was. I have even told my wife that there were times that I looked outside our marriage for happiness. As if it would be better with someone else. This is not something I am proud of, yet it was an experience I participated in. As you can see from my history, getting to the next level with anything was a big goal of mine. Being happy in the present and enjoying what I have, was not something really considered. It was always “What will be my next win?” What do I need to get/obtain next? There were many other experiences in many other aspects of my life. However, it would take too long to write in this one simple letter.
My experience, my knowledge, and my identity have all recently shifted. And, this is where your program comes in. We were asked to have one parent at this event called “Sports Leader” back in March. After the presentation, we all felt moved in some way. Half jokingly, all the dads and coaches stood up and said “I love you” as the lights went back on. We all laughed and enjoyed the moment, yet I did not really know where this would all lead and how drastically my life would change based on this simple statement/feeling. As time went on, we had sent emails that ended in “I love you”. We would hug after every game, practice, and social gathering. At no point did any parent ever question where there kid was playing or why. Every play was a “great attempt”. Every parent voraciously cheered for every kid. There was no me or I. There was only “Us/We”. After every awards ceremony, while other players were given trophies from their coaches and a hand shake with congratulations, our coaches hugged everyone of our players and the reward they received was far more than a piece of hardware. It was the love, admiration, and respect they all deserved. And, that is why all of those amazing kids played with everything they had. They knew they were all loved. Not one more than any other. It was collective as a team and as a family.
I can go on and on about the three most amazing and incredible coaches we have had the pleasure of being a family with. I can also write on for a while about your program sports leader. Along with some divine intervention, my life and the way I look at it has changed forever. It especially has dramatically transformed with my son. Even when I get on him to hustle, at the end of the day we always hug/kiss and say I love you. The fact that he knows what he means to me is far more important than any accomplishment have ever had on a field or a court. And because of this, he works that much harder and performs that much better. It is my true hope that teams around the world can have wonderful coaches, players, and families that we have experienced this year alone. It is now more clear than ever to me that if I truly would want something to change, then I have to change and others will not only notice the change, but will change in addition. In the 10 months we have been together as a team, my life has dramatically shifted from Selfishness to Selflessness. My wife almost fell over one day when I went up directly to her and apologized for being “selfish” and that I was going to change the things I said and did going forward. All it took was a shift in Identity, Attitude, and Perspective. Now, I can’t even imagine what it was like to be the way I was. It is also clearer to me more than ever that when you have individuals that show the selfless love and respect that these three individuals have, it can change a game, a team, a state, a country, and even a world. It all starts with an individual. Thank you for your program. I have often said that I was going to write a book one day, yet I wasn’t quite sure how, when, or why. I can tell you that the book is on its way and it will probably involve the experiences of this team and how it transformed my life and hopefully others. You know, I guess when the Beatles sang “All you need is Love”, they must have really known something.